August 12, 2019  (Web Review)

To Err is Human

(2018) 77 min. DVD: $16.99, Blu-ray: $19.99. Gravitas Ventures (avail. from most distributors). Closed captioned.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

“To Err is Human” was the title of a 1999 report on patient safety, from which filmmaker Mike Eisenberg draws the dismaying conclusion that hospital mistakes and physician misdiagnoses/miscommunications are a leading cause of death, only ranking behind cancer and heart disease (further healthcare screwups and snafus exact their own non-lethal toll in illness and maiming). Eisenberg is the son of the late Dr. John Eisenberg, of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (the result of a Clinton administration push to reduce medical error), and in interviews with doctors and patients (or their survivors), he presents a clinical chart of disheartening anecdotes and tragic histories, while largely avoiding a hysteria-level tone, noting that agencies such as the AHRQ and their supporters are making progress in trying to end a longstanding culture of cover-ups and evasions (as well as failures to do something as simple as wash one’s hands). Curiously, the issues of malpractice and related insurance costs are not addressed here. An out-of-left-field cameo here is author and hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who compares airline safety and responsibility with the healthcare industry’s deficiencies. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)